The popular Yoruba actor was detained by the NDLEA for allegedly ingesting drugs.
The Court of Appeal in Lagos, Friday, quashed the N25 million damages awarded to popular actor, Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe.
In a judgment by a three man judges’ panel, the court held that the award of N25 million to Mr. Omidina as damages for the violation of his fundamental human rights was “pervasive” and “wrong.”
“The detention was not up to a year, what then informs the award of N25 million?” Rita Pemu, who read the judgment, asked.
“There was simply no basis for that; he was held for nine days. There was no evidence to attract such punitive damages. The judgment is not proper and therefore set aside,” Mrs. Pemu added.
Mr. Omidina was, in October 2011, detained for 24 days by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, on the suspicion of ingestion of illicit drugs.
In her judgment on November 24, 2011, Yetunde Idowu, the trial judge, ruled in favour of the actor and ordered the NDLEA to pay Mr. Omidina N25 million as compensation for keeping him in custody beyond the legal time limit on the suspicion of drug ingestion.
The judge also ordered the agency to tender a public apology to the actor in two national newspapers.
Mr. Omidina was arrested and detained on October 12 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, on his way to Paris.
After he had not excreted any hard drug for over a week, the NDLEA secured an order from the Federal High court in Lagos on October 21, 2011, to further detain the Mr. Omidina for 15 days.
The appellate court on Friday said that the detention of the actor cum comedian between October 12 and 21 “is not unreasonable.”
Mrs. Pemu held that the NDLEA was right in seeking an order from the federal high court for Mr. Omidina’s continued detention after a computed tomography (CT) and body scan revealed drug deposits in his system.
“Based on the results of the scan, the appellant’s (NDLEA) suspicion strengthened and the respondent (Mr. Omidina) was placed under more observation.
“The order of the federal high court absolves the appellant of any culpability in the violation of the respondent’s fundamental human rights,” Mrs. Pemu added.
Reacting to the judgment, Bamidele Aturu, Mr. Omidina’s lawyer, said that he disagreed with the principle used to arrive at the judgment and would appeal it at the Supreme Court.
After the 2011 Lagos High court judgment in favour of Mr. Omidina, the NDLEA had approached the appellate court challenging, among other things, the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
“Drugs and poisons are items under the Executive Legislative List in the 1999 Constitution and also subject to exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court by virtue of Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution.
“The judicial powers of the High Court of a State do not extend to the subject matter of litigation,” the anti-narcotics agency had stated.
The appellate court also agreed with the NDLEA that the federal high court has exclusive jurisdiction on matters involving drugs and poisons.